The study has been financed by the Government of Andalusia’s COVID-19 Fund and the initial grant has been to the tune of EUR 90,000.
Coronavirus treatment: New drug to mitigate or prevent coronavirus infection may have been found! Researchers from the University of Malaga (UMA) and the Andalusian Centre for Nanomedicine and Biotechnology (BIONAND) have been making progress in the identification of new therapies that can be implemented rapidly and can combat COVID-19. They have now found a potential drug to prevent or mitigate the consequences of an infection caused by SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic. The first results of the study have been published in Cytokine and Growth Factors Review journal and have been accessed by Financial Express Online.
The research is being led by principal researchers Fabiana Csukasi and Iván Durán, and over the coming year, the team would be studying the impact of 4-Phenylbutiric acid (4-PBA) treatment in modulating the inflammatory response that is produced in severe COVID-19 cases. This inflammatory response can lead to excessive and uncontrolled release of cytokines, which are the molecules responsible for the organisation of the body’s defence. This uncontrolled release can cause severe reactions, going as far as triggering vascular hyperpermeability and muti-organ failure. The researchers have proposed controlling this cytokine “storm” through the help of the infected cells.
Durán said that when the cells are under stress due to the infection, they trigger the release of cytokines, and as the stress level increases, the call for cytokine also increases, leading to this storm. Therefore, Durán said that one possible treatment for this is reducing the stress on cells.
The researcher added that repurposing of 4-PBA, an anti-stress drug, could help in modulating the cellular stress. The drug has been approved for clinical usage in other diseases, and therefore, it should not be hard to apply for repurposing it in terms of COVID-19. Another important point to note is that cellular stress is also present in cases of aging, carcinogenesis or diabetes, all of which are comorbidities flagged as risk factors for COVID-19.
COVID-19: Risk groups
Durán said that the preliminary research was conducted on animal models and the results from the study have shown that mortality caused by cellular stress-induced respiratory failure was completely curbed by 4-PBA. The researcher added that the results also helped in the identification of Binding Immunoglobulin Protein (BiP), a marker of stress blood, as an indicator of situations of cellular stress. This could be explored and measured in affected patients.
The UMA professor said that this could mean that BiP levels could determine the efficacy of 4-PBA treatment as well as be an early indicator of the COVID-19 risk groups. Thus, it could help in the establishment of a correlation between high stress levels and the severity of the inflammation after the infection.
The researcher added that people with comorbidities have cellular stress in the first place, and an infection of coronavirus could make them more prone to fall severely ill or even die. Thus, if the status of a patient’s cellular stress became known, then healthcare workers would be able to detect their susceptibility before they get infected and also know how to treat them in time.
The study has been financed by the Government of Andalusia’s COVID-19 Fund and the initial grant has been to the tune of EUR 90,000. There is also a possibility that the project could get a three-year renewal.